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      Donation to parks will help sick and autistic children, families

      A Columbia group dedicated to improving the city's parks will give a large donation to the Parks Department at tonight's city council meeting.

      The Cosmopolitan Luncheon Club, which has been contributing to the city's parks since 1947, will present a check for $125,000 to Parks and Rec Department Director Mike Hood.

      Hood said the money is a wecome gift and will be used to fund a project in Woodridge Park, near the University Women's and Children Hospital. Improvements will include rebuilding the playground to make it ADA accessible and replace wood mulch surfaces with rubberized surfaces that are wheelchair-friendly.

      The donation will also help in the construction of trails that will connect the park to the Thompson Autism Center and the Ronald McDonald house.

      Hood said a "council ring" is part of the renovations, a peaceful area for "people and families dealing with issues of the time to get some normalcy back in their lives."

      Hood said the Cosmo Club's donation has made it easier to get grants that add to the total budget for the renovations. "We score points on grants then." The total amount available for the Woodridge Park improvements now stands at $213,000.